Monthly Archives: February 2015

Blue and Gold Banquet- “Everything was Awesome!”

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Last night was my little cubs’ Blue and Gold banquet for cub scouts. The theme was Legos, and Friday afternoon was spent preparing.

The boys were all encouraged to bring an original Lego creation in to display as the center pieces for the party. After lunch the boys were set free from school work to go create. Rusty, always eager for a chance to build, joined them.

Ozzie's creation.

Ozzie’s creation.

Rusty's plane.

Rusty’s plane.

The girls joined me in the kitchen to whip up some Lego themed treats for dessert. Thanks to Pinterest we came      up with a few fun ideas.

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Gracie began the task of making Lego men heads out of full-sized and mini marshmallows  dipped in yellow chocolate. Molly then finished them by adding the faces.

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Once the boys were done building they joined us back in the kitchen to make Lego block treats.

Tyler working...

Tyler working…

Molly holding the finished blocks.

Molly holding the finished blocks.

It was soon time to leave. Grace and Molly volunteered to help with decorating so we arrived at church two hours early.  There was a group of “big sisters” who took on the task of decorating the gym at church for the Blue and Gold banquet. They did a fabulous job!

The decorating team.

The decorating team.

At 6:30 the fun began. The night started with dinner…a baked potato bar. The baked potatoes were provided and the families were all asked to bring toppings to share.

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There was an impressive array of desserts as well!

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As everyone enjoyed dinner there were Lego man coloring sheets at each table to keep the boys busy after they were done eating.

Our family looks like we color coordinated for BLUE and gold night but it was just a happy coincindence. ;)

Our family looks like we color coordinated for BLUE and gold night but it was just a happy coincidence.  😉

Coloring time...

Coloring time…

Following dinner there were games. The kids were split into 4 teams for a relay race. The race consisted of each team member picking a Lego piece, which they had to balance on their belly as they crab walked across the gym. When they reached the next person they would have to combine their Lego pieces before the next team member would crab walk back across the gym. The kids loved it and the shout and cheers were deafening. 🙂

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There was also a fun “photo booth” set up where the boys could pose as their favorite “Lego Movie” characters.

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Good cop and bad cop…aka Tyler and Oz.

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The night ended with awards being handed out and a  final word from one of the leaders. He sat the boys down and asked them if they had seen “The Lego Movie.” The boys eagerly answered, “yes!” He talked to the boys about the story line and the search that takes place for “The Special.” He reminded the boys that the lesson learned in the end was that each character discovered they were “The Special,” they just needed to believe it. He reminded them of the talents they each possess that make them special, and unique,  and gives them individual worth. Like the characters in the movie, they only need to believe it.

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It was a wonderful way to end the evening and a profound message for each of those little boys to hear. In a world that is often tearing down and belittling the worth of our sons it was good for them to be reminded of their infinite worth.  Each one is so special.

It was a great night. In fact,

“Everything was Awesome!”

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“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

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It has been said that:

“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” – Uchtdorf

Others would argue that they are NOT creative, that there is not a creative bone in their body, or that the talent of creativity was not one that they were born or blessed with.

But I disagree.

I believe that within each of us there is a hidden desire to create, to build, to design or discover that hidden spark within ourselves. I believe when we pursue a creative outlet…

 Whether through painting, baking, photography, sewing, singing, interior design, drawing, gardening, writing, mothering, serving, loving…

we flame that small, quiet spark within and the flames of passion burst forth…

and our soul then whispers, “Yes, this is how I ought to feel!”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:

“You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and don’t require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano.

Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before- colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of the critics paralyze you- whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.”

On Monday we flamed those creative sparks and we created!

There is a group of girlfriends I get together with regularly to make cards with. On of the ladies in our group sells “Stampin’ Up” products and teaches our card making class. Another friend in our group is a minister’s wife and she opens the doors of her church to us monthly so that we can gather together. It is one of the highlights of my month. Everyone brings food and we enjoy a few hours of eating, laughing, sharing and creating together.

This month rather than make cards our project was a perpetual birthday calendar.

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Earlier this month my girls came to me and asked if in lieu of birthday parties they could have a painting party with their friends. They thought it would be fun to get their co-op buddies together and do a Bob Ross painting class together. We embraced the idea and started planning…

Then the winter weather hit. Snow storms and deep freezes left our driveway impassable so it was suggested that we move the party to the same night as the card night and just set up the girls in another section of the church. Perfect!

The preparation for the party began weeks before hand as we scoured the internet looking for great deals on canvases, brushes and oil paint sets.

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The girls wanted to make goody bags for their friends. In addition to the purchased painting items they decided to make all the girls painting swatch bookmarks,

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and paintbrush treats, using rice krispie treats dipped in colored chocolate.

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The day before the party we went shopping for food. The girls wanted “art gallery” food for their party so we bought sparkling grape juice, cheese and crackers, fruit, and chip and dip. This food was set up near their class so they could munch while they painted, although they also joined us downstairs and had soups and bread with us (moms) for dinner.

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When we arrived I helped the girls get set up before joining my class downstairs. We covered everything in paint tarps and the Bob Ross video was projected on the wall.

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The girls had a blast. We could hear them laughing from downstairs. The sound of their laughter and the smell of their paint thinner carried through the church. 🙂

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At the end of the night, as we were finishing up our craft, the girls came down to show off their finished products. It was so neat to see how the same art instruction video could result in such different final paintings.

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After cleaning up, and saying our goodbyes, we headed home. The girls enthusiastically shared about everything that had happened . When I asked Molly which final painting she liked best she answered,

“Well I don’t know. I like them all for such different reasons. Some I liked because of the colors used, others I liked how the trees turned out, and others I really liked because of the texture. I don’t think I could pick just one because they all had things about them that made them really good!”

I suppose like all creative pursuits there is no ONE right way.

As Bob Ross so often says, “Any way you want it to be, that’s just right.”

The night was about creating. We created useful, and pretty calendars. We created unique and beautiful paintings.

But we also created a lot more…

We strengthened friendships, we made memories, we encouraged creativity, and we taught our girls that the most magical days often end with the dirtiest clothes. 🙂

Happy, Healthy Hearts

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On Wednesday we celebrated Valentine’s Day with our home school co-op friends. I am so grateful that we joined this co-op 10 years ago. It has provided us with wonderful experiences, lasting friendships, and many holiday parties. When we found our co-op group, we found the missing piece to our home schooling puzzle. Through our co-op the kids have had the socializing opportunities that so many people ask about when they hear we home school. 😉 My kids have had the chance to make wonderful friends with like-minded families and I have had the chance to bond with an amazing group of women who walk the same road. They have become my confidants and safe ears to share with, laugh with, and cry with through all sorts of challenges.

Through our co-op the kids have had an opportunity to sit in a classroom of peers and experience the traditional school environment of note taking, hand raising, and having a teacher they don’t call “Mom.” As a group we have gone on a myriad of field trips, planned end of year picnics and have given the kids the missed holiday experiences that the public school children speak so highly of…particularly, the Valentine exchange. 🙂

This year the theme chosen by the moms in charge was a “Heart Healthy Valentine.”

The school day began with our usual schedule of science, history and art being taught for the first 3 hours. The party began after lunch.

The kids were broken into two groups…a younger group of students: 7th grade and down,

The little kids...

The little kids…

and the big kids: 8th grade and up.

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The big kids had a separate party and a fun game to participate in. The women in charge of the big kids created a life-sized “Candy land” sort of game. The theme though was “heart healthy”, so as the teams’ game pieces (played by the kids) moved around the board they had to answer first aid questions or do different exercises.

The big kid party.

The big kid party.

Gracie as a game piece. She landed on "wiggle for 2 minutes."

Gracie as a game piece. She landed on “wiggle for 2 minutes.”

Molly (on the yellow team) waiting her turn.

Molly (on the yellow team) waiting her turn.

The kids had a lot of fun with it. Gracie’s team ended up winning.

The little kids had their party in the gym. They also had a game. Theirs was a “tic tac toe” game that involved taking turns tossing bean bag hearts onto “tic tac toe” squares. The opposite team had to perform whatever task the bean bag landed on.

Tossing bean bags.

Tossing bean bags.

Tyler

Tyler

There were a variety of exercises and health activities.

Sit-up time!

Sit-up time!

Drawing out a healthy meal on paper plates.

Drawing out a healthy meal on paper plates.

At the end of the game the kids gathered in a circle to hand out their Valentine’s Day cards.

The valentine exchange.

The valentine exchange.

Everyone was eager to show off their boxes.

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After the cards were exchanged, the awards were handed out for the boxes. This year the Valentine boxes were judged by category. The four categories were: science, history, art and music, with two winners in each category.

Rusty's box

Rusty’s box

Rusty was one of the science winners. He did a box based on Benjamin Franklin and his kite experiment.

The two science winners.

The two science winners.

The party was a success.

The prize!

The prize!

Everyone left with happy hearts…

and healthy ones too! 🙂

Ozzie turns 11!

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All I have to do, to measure the amount of “struggle” in my week, is to look back on the number of blog postings for the week. In the midst of those really hard “adoption road” days I find myself shying away from the computer, uncertain of what to write, how much to share, and how honest to be. I notice that it has been over a week since I last posted and I can reflect back and see why. Although I strive to be real and honest about the peaks and valleys of this adoption road I also try to end, even the really REAL posts, with a note of hope. When I struggle with finding the hope, I struggle with sharing the story.

Perhaps in the future I will be in a place where I can openly share the very hard crisis moments we had this week, but for now I will simply focus on the blessings that have come in the last few days…

This weekend we had the opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Ozzie’s 11th birthday. These holidays, in combination with bitterly cold temperatures, kept us hunkered down for a few days.

Saturday (Valentine’s Day) was spent helping the kids make Valentine’s Day boxes for co-op, filling out Valentine’s Day cards, and catching up on things around the house. Toby and I ended up postponing our Valentine celebration and our gift exchange until Tuesday when we had a sitter for Ozzie.

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On a side note:

Tuesday was the first tween adoption support meeting for Ozzie. Our social worker suggested it might be a helpful resource and shared the information with us. Once a month our adoption agency has a dinner and group meeting for adopted tweens 12 and under. The eat a meal together, play games that help with social skills, and have discussions about topics pertinent to them. For the parents of the adopted child that means 2 hours to go out to dinner with your spouse, connect, and talk uninterrupted. This was our Valentine’s dinner night.

Ozzie had a great time and did really well. Toby and I enjoyed the 2 hour break. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate US, recommit to each other, laugh and cry about the struggles, and remember why we are doing this. We will definitely continue doing this!

On Saturday we also did our yearly measuring. Every Valentine’s day the kids get measured and their heights are marked on the hallway wall. We have made this a holiday tradition simply so I have a greater likelihood of remembering to do it annually. The kids all look forward to this tradition and are always eager to see how they “measure up” to their siblings and their previous marks on the wall. This year was Ozzie’s second mark and Tyler’s third. It was fun to see the growth.

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Rusty won for biggest growth spurt.

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Poor Grace…not so much. She was just happy to see her line move slightly upward. Now it is simply a waiting game to see if Grace or Ozzie will end up being the shortest family member in the end. 🙂

Monday was President’s Day, which meant the day off of school. It was also Ozzie’s 11th birthday. The day began with our family tradition of waking Ozzie with a cupcake and the family singing “Happy Birthday.” He was thrilled to get to eat a cupcake for breakfast.

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The day was a quiet, stay at home day. It was wonderful to have a “recharge our batteries” sort of day after a few hard days.

When Toby arrived home we had Ozzie’s favorite meal for dinner: tacos!

He asked that we rent a movie and have family movie night so we rented the movie “Planes: Fire and Rescue” to watch. It was so nice snuggling on the couch with my whole family at home: warm and safe.

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After the movie we moved back into the dining room for cake and ice cream. Earlier in the day Tyler helped me bake a homemade chocolate cake for Ozzie. We used the recipe my mom used when we were kids. Watching Tyler lick the chocolate beaters brought back such “sweet” memories. 🙂

Tyler helped me buy ingredients earlier in the week. One request Tyler had was to buy trick candles that relight themselves after being blown out. Tyler was all giggly as we laid the cake before Ozzie. He couldn’t hold back his laughter as Ozzie watched, puzzled, at the candles that kept lighting and relighting.

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Eventually it took a team of candle blowers to put out the fire. 🙂

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After cake and ice cream we opened gifts. Ozzie enjoyed the fun mix of thoughtful gifts that his siblings bought/made him. His gift from Toby and I were some Lego sets.

We kept Ozzie’s birthday small and intimate this year. I see the struggle we are in at the moment and know that the chaos of a big party or celebration would only be detrimental at this point. Our little family party was a perfect way to celebrate our son without overwhelming him emotionally.

Happy 11th birthday, Ozzie. We love you.

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Contentment

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A few years ago, as Gracie was entering the Young Women’s program at church, we attended our first New Beginnings. The theme for the ceremony coincided with the winter Olympics and the theme was an Olympic one. As part of the ceremony each girl received a “gold medal” with a single word written on it. We, as parents, decided what word would appear on their medal.

A few weeks before the special night we were approached and asked to come up with a single word to describe our daughter. We were told that at New Beginnings we would each have an opportunity to stand, present our daughters with their medal, and explain why chose the word that we did.

Toby and I gave much thought to how we describe Grace in a single word…she is kind, and funny, and loyal, hard-working, and steadfast…

In the end we chose the word “Diligent.”

That same night another mother stood and presented her daughter with a “gold medal.” She chose the word “Content” to describe her daughter.

That special night, and her choice of word, has stuck with me for a long time. I found myself rolling that simple word around on my tongue…”Content,” what a wonderful thing to be!

After that night I found myself often pondering how I could be more like that. How does one achieve contentment?

It is not that I am unhappy. It is not that I’m a pessimist. I am typically happy and at peace with my life, grateful for all I have been blessed with. I sit firmly in the “glass half full” school of thought.

For me “Contentment” represents a peace…an ability to rest where one is. That I have never been able to do. Perhaps that is the plague of being a first-born child. Perhaps that is a personal sin I struggle with. Regardless of how happy I am with how something has been done or how something is, I am always looking for how I can improve…how can I do better.

Good is never good enough as long as the carrot of “better” hangs before me.

This is where the dichotomy of contentment comes in. This is my struggle. I continue to strive for improvement, which is good. Personal growth is good. Spiritual growth is good. Being stretched and challenged is good. We are not called to be stagnate beings.

So how do we reconcile that with the commandment to be content?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

How does one find  peace where they are, while they are still growing and improving? How does one feel at peace when things are not quite ideal? How do we grow while at the same time obeying the command to “Be still?”

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

After much thought I have come to the conclusion that contentment is not a reflection on our circumstances, but rather a reflection on our faith. Contentment does not ask us to stop trying, instead it asks us to TRUST Him in our journey. Contentment does not mean that we don’t want things to improve or change; it means we will keep praising in the darkness, knowing the light will come. It is seeing the simple blessings in hard moments, and allowing those small blessings to be enough today.

Contentment does not come from and absence of trials, but from a loving Heavenly Father who is bigger than our trials.

This week has been a growing week. I am working on choosing contentment.

Here are some of the blessings I am counting this week:

Two Sundays ago we were invited to join the Mackay family at their home for a Super Bowl party. It was a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship as we caught up on each other's lives. It was a blessing to spend time with these friends that we don't get to see nearly enough.

Two Sundays ago we were invited to join the Mackay family at their home for a Super Bowl party. It was a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship as we caught up on each other’s lives. It was a blessing to spend time with these friends that we don’t get to see nearly enough.

The Mackay and McCleery kids.

The Mackay and McCleery kids.

One of our greatest blessings are our animals. I am grateful to be able to raise children in the country where we can raise farm animals and where my kids learn the lessons that can only come from having animals.

One of our greatest blessings are our animals. I am grateful to be able to raise children in the country where we can raise farm animals and where my kids learn the lessons that can only come from having animals.

Our cats love to "perch" up on the barn beams that span our living room. I think they like to look down on the action, far out of reach from the pups.

Our cats love to “perch” up on the barn beams that span our living room. I think they like to look down on the action, far out of reach from the pups.

I am grateful for my three bio kids who have made enormous sacrifices to allow two broken sould have a family to call their own. It has not been easy for them but I have watched the Lord grow their hearts and testimonies in beautiful ways as a result of this stretching time of life.

I am grateful for my three big kids who have made enormous sacrifices to allow two broken souls to have a family to call their own. It has not been easy for them but I have watched the Lord grow their hearts and testimonies in beautiful ways as a result of this stretching time of life.

I am grateful for our co-op, in particular for Miss Corrina, who plans monthly service projects for the kids to participate in. Watching them participate in and focus on others in need has been a blessing fopr all the kids. This month they made tactile Valentines to deliver to the children at the School for the Blind in Pittsburgh.

I am grateful for our co-op, in particular for Miss Corrina, who plans monthly service projects for the kids to participate in. Watching them participate in and focus on others in need has been a blessing for all the kids. This month they made tactile Valentines to deliver to the children at the School for the Blind in Pittsburgh.

I am grateful for WONDERFUL cyber schools and the opportunities they provide my kiddos. This week Gracie was thrilled to get two exciting phone calls from her teacher. She found out that her drawing that she submitted for her mural club was chosen as the winning drawing that will be painted on a wall at their school building in Downingtown. She also received news this week that she has been accepted into the National Honor Society- yea Gracie!!

I am grateful for WONDERFUL cyber schools and the opportunities they provide my kiddos. This week Gracie was thrilled to get two exciting phone calls from her teacher. She found out that her drawing that she submitted for her mural club was chosen as the winning drawing that will be painted on a wall at their school building in Exton, PA. She also received news this week that she has been accepted into the National Honor Society …yea Gracie!!

I am grateful for friends and crafts. This week I was invited to join a fun group of girls for a night of crafting. This was the craft we made. It was such a joy to being kid free for a few hours, be creative, and laugh with friends. It was just what I needed!

I am grateful for friends and crafts. This week I was invited to join a fun group of girls for a night of crafting. This was the craft we made. It was such a joy to be “kid free” for a few hours, be creative, and laugh with friends. It was just what I needed!

I am grateful for healthy legs. There was a time in my life that hiking to the end of the driveway would have been impossible. Although I can't say I am grateful for an ice covered driveway that requires us to park at the bottom and hike in, I am grateful for the ability to do it.

I am grateful for healthy legs. There was a time in my life that hiking to the end of the driveway would have been impossible because of my Myasthenia Gravis. Although I can’t say I am grateful for an ice-covered driveway that requires us to park at the bottom and hike in, I am grateful for the ability to do it. Here is the family hiking down to the car for church.

The kids, on the other hand, are quite grateful for an icy driveway. They have had a blast!

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So today I choose contentment.

“Contentment isn’t a state of organization, a weight on a scale, a state of better:

better kids, better marriage, better health, better house.

Contentment is never a matter of circumstances;

Contentment is always a state of communion-

a daily embracing of God.

A thankfulness of all the gifts, and moments, and life

just as He gives it.”

– Ann Voskamp

RAD…not so cool.

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I have spent the last 12 months feeling like I have lost my mind. I have spent many nights in tears, at the end of my rope, not knowing how to parent this wounded soul. I have dug deep, and emptied my bag of parenting tricks, desperate to find a technique that gets through. As a family we have desperately counseled with other adoptive families, with our social workers, and with therapists as to how to effectively address the behaviors that have taken hold in our home. We have spent countless hours in prayer beseeching the Lord for answers and guidance.

Our days have been emotionally challenging as we have been torn down, lied to, ignored, mocked and manipulated…and no one knows it is happening.

To be blunt, the adoption road with Oz has been hard.

*sigh*

 I have felt like I was going crazy as I have watched him transform in the presence of others. He becomes perfect, ideal, when we go out in public. He loves on me, hugs me, compliments me and calls me “the best mom ever” when others are watching. He is helpful and kind to his siblings when others are around. Who he is in the presence of strangers is a very different little boy than who I parent at home.

I would be a very rich woman if I had a dollar for every person who said to me, “Oh, that Ozzie, what a dream!” or “Boy, I bet you feel blessed to have an Ozzie after your hard road with Tyler.”

and I smile, and nod…they have no idea.

Parenting Ozzie has been the ultimate puzzle. He came to us with a gamut of diagnoses including Autism and RAD. He is an older child adoption. He is on a variety of medications for ADHD. He was severely abused as a child and has experienced multiple failed pre-adoptive placements. All of these factors come together and create a challenge in parenting. I would find myself assessing a behavior and asking myself, “Is this the abuse? Is this simply defiance? Is this the autism?” I was not sure what I was dealing with, thus I didn’t know how to parent it.

But God is faithful…Always faithful. He has seen our desperation, he has witnessed the hurts, He wants to see this child heal and this family bond. He heard our prayers and He sent help in the form of an adoption training class and an instructor by the name of Amy Swigart. The class was about a condition called RAD, or reactive attachment disorder. Since this is one of Ozzie’s diagnoses (Tyler’s too, although he hasn’t exhibited the same degree of symptoms) so we thought we would benefit from learning more.

Who knew this class would be the answer to those many prayers, prayed by a Momma who  desperately loves her son. This class was a God-send! I realize I am NOT crazy. What I have been seeing is REAL. As I sat in that class with parents of RAD kids I felt the weight I had been shouldering with Toby for the last year lift. I wasn’t imagining those behaviors. It isn’t a personal vendetta towards me. It isn’t about how we are parenting or what we are doing right or wrong. This is a very real condition, a miswiring of the brain brought on by neglect in infancy (I could just wring his parents’ necks), with very real symptoms.

As she talked about the more common symptoms I found myself shouting within, “Yes, yes…that is what we are living with!” I felt relief as other parents shared, and I realized that we have been protected from some of the more severe symptoms of this condition. In the class, a 17-year-old girl with RAD shared her journey through therapy and healing, and  I praised God at the healing that can come with help.

I finally feel like I have been given the map to navigate this foreign land I have found myself in.

Now that it has been named, we can begin healing…and that is a blessing!

Here are some of the symptoms described by Linda J. Rice in her book, “Parenting the Difficult Child.”

Typical RAD Characteristics:

Lack of Eye Contact
Eye contact is excellent only when the child is manipulating or is extremely angry. Otherwise, contact is avoided by averting or rolling the eyes, or by rapid blinking.

Resists Affection on Parents’ Terms
Affectionate touching and hugs are verbally and physically rejected. The child stiffens, pulls away, or turns the face away from a kiss on the cheek. Hugging a RAD baby can be like hugging a board. Gifts are often rejected. Praise and affection do not build reciprocity; he does not unconditionally give affection or gifts to family members.

Inappropriately Demanding and Clingy
Although he resists parental affection on the parents’ terms, he will, in his own timing, initiate ultra cuddly-sweet, even desperate, hugs.

Superficially Engaging and Charming
The child presents himself as mannerly, cute, sweet, bubbly, demure, cuddly, adoring, or helpless. He will laugh, hug intensely, rub his cheek on the adult’s hand, and even cling to new acquaintance with appealing possessiveness. Shy or bold, RAD children are shrewd analysts of others and calculate precisely how to get whatever response they want.

Phoniness, Deceitfulness
The unattached child diligently studies people and practices how to con others. He tells others what he thinks they want to hear. He becomes so skilled at an appearance of normalcy that is may be months before a person realizes he has been emotionally duped. The constant phoniness creates a sense of disconnect or remoteness in relationships.

Poor Peer Relationships
The antisocial child is usually a loner even if he appears to be friends with everyone. He tends to play with younger children because peers avoid him and younger children are more easily manipulated. He lacks long-term childhood friends.

Abnormal Speech Patterns
The unattached child speaks not to communicate but to control. A favorite technique is mispronouncing a word so that the adult will correct him. Slurring, mumbling, and nearly inaudible speech keep adults asking “What?” Yet, enunciation is crystal clear during an angry outburst. Giving ambiguous, rather than direct, answers to questions keeps adults probing for information. Other techniques include squeaks, forced laughter, incessant laughter, and incessant chatter. Nonsense question, questions about the obvious, or questions that make others feel awkward are also utilized.

Abnormal Eating Patterns
Patterns include stealing and hiding food, hoarding and gorging, refusal to eat, and eating strange things.

Difficulty Learning from Mistakes
No matter the consequences given by parents and society, the child will continue the behavior. He does not learn from positive or negative reinforcements.

Poor Impulse Control
A RAD child may speak kindly one moment, viciously the next. He may steal one moment, be generous in the next.

Intense Control Battles
The child works persistently to wrestle control of the household away from the parent. He behaves well when he wants something. Otherwise, testing, bossiness, arguments, baiting others, and pushing the limits continue unendingly. Every conversation is a manipulation opportunity. He pretends to not hear, not understand, or to misunderstand. A simple morning greeting might be delayed, dramatized, normal, a deliberate snub, a contemptuous grunt, a glare, a burst of laughter, or an antagonistic “What do you want?” A minute incident may start a control battle that continues unresolved for hours or days. He is as likely to sabotage a fun game as he is to participate.

Chronic Lying, Lies About the Obvious
Lying is highly skilled, chronic, blatant, and sometimes so ridiculous that the child seems unaware of reality. With his hand in the cookie jar, the child will answer, “What jar?” Lying is not reserved only for escape from trouble. It is a lifestyle. The child may lie about the color of the shirt he is wearing or who was at the birthday party, lying when it gains him nothing and when telling the truth would require less effort.

Lack of Remorse, Seeming Lack of Conscience
When confronted with misbehavior, the child rationalizes, minimizes the harm he caused, shows total indifference, offers excuses, or blames the victim. Remorse is shown only to reduce or prevent punishment. He becomes insolent or furious if an authority expects him to admit wrongdoing. His actions are justified. The expectations of the victim and/or the authority are unreasonable.

This has been our life for the past year…

but this is not how the story will end!

Now that we have stepped from the shadows we can begin healing.

I find myself holding tight to the promise that God can heal all wounds, all hurts…the ones inflicted 9 years ago on this little boy we love, and the ones that have been inflicted on the household more recently.

He will heal us all.

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because God is good…

Always good!

Birds of a Feather Flock Together!

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Here is a peek at our school outing to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh last Friday:

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As part of our tour the kids were given cards of birds or objects they had to find.

As part of our tour the kids were given cards of birds or objects they had to find.

The Wetlands was our first stop. Here they had the chance to feed the pelicans little fish.

The Wetlands was our first stop. Here they had the chance to feed the pelicans little fish.

Tyler enjoyed this part of the tour!

Tyler enjoyed this part of the tour!

The birds were all beautiful. Here were some of our favorites…

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Tyler’s favorite bird was the Grey Parrot who squawked “bye” every time Tyler said, “goodbye.”

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The African Penguins were another “favorite” of the boys.

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The day was made even better by the fact we could spend it with friends!

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The Evolution of Parenting

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There is a natural evolution that occurs as parents when you move from child #1 to child #5. As the parent to “precious child #1” you secretly judge those parents of multiple children who have lost that “new parent edge.”

(Admit it. You know you did!)

You would look at their poor neglected #3 child who eats Cheerios off the floor, and for whom there is not a photo to be found, and you would say to yourself,

“That will never be me.”

Famous last words, right?

I remember secretly pitying Child # 3…or 4…or 5 of my friends as I attentively tended my # 1. I was on my third scrapbook for Grace and she wasn’t a year old and poor “Suzy’s” only proof of existence was a blurred cell phone shot that her mom snapped as she crawled away (unsupervised, of course!)  😉

Then I was blessed with #2.

And God chuckled.

Then came #3

And God laughed.

And then we adopted # 4 and #5

And God clutched His sides and howled. He has been rolling on the floor ever since.

All those “I would nevers” that I once whispered in self-righteous judgment have been thrown back in my face.

I have been humbled.

I have become a child #5 Momma,

and no place is that more evident than on the sidelines of a Cub Scout pinewood derby.

Over the course of the last 10 years; between Awanas, cub scouts, and youth activities, we have assisted our children in the creating, shaping, and painting of 25 pinewood derby cars. As I reflect back on Gracie’s first few cars (I can reflect back because she is my first born and those photos are all beautifully scrapbooked) I see that parenting evolution that I swore would never happen.

I remember our first Pinewood derby race. Hours were put into researching the rules about design and weight. Toby and I went online to look for tricks and hints for building a winning car. Gracie weighed every design possibility and Toby patiently worked with her in his shop as she turned her block of wood into a car. Weights were added, wheels were treated, and we all waited for the night of the race with eager anticipation.

Fast forward 10 years…

To a very different season of our life.

Scene:

(The kitchen at midnight, 19 hours prior to the pinewood derby race…that we had both forgotten about.)

Katie: “Oh crud, I totally forgot about the little boys’ race tomorrow night. What time can you be home?”

Toby: “I’ll have to meet you there. I’m working late”

Katie: “Then I need you to cut their cars out now so they can paint them tomorrow.”

Toby: (deep sigh) “Where are they?”

(This led to a 30 minutes search for the car kits.)

Katie: “What paints should I have them use tomorrow?”

Toby: “Just have them color them with Sharpies.”

Katie: (looking incredulous) “Really?”

It was at that moment I realized we had arrived. We were officially one of “those” parents. Poor child #4 and #5.

Katie: “What about grease for the wheels or weights for the cars?”

Toby: “Nah, just have them glue some quarters to the top of their cars.”

It was on that inspired thought that we shuffled off to bed.

The sun did come out the following day. The cars were finished in time (kinda.) The boys had a blast despite the poor paint jobs, the generic designs, and the poorly fastened quarters that continued to fly off the top of the cars each time they hit the cushion at the end of the track.

They didn’t win first (or second, or ….well never mind) but they had a lot of fun.

Maybe that is what this parenting gig is all about: allowing ourselves to find joy in the less than ideal situations that arise, and cutting ourselves a little slack when our thirty something selves no longer “measure up” to who we were as parents when there was just child #1.

Hopefully any resentment my boys might one day feel when they compare their pinewood derby photos to those of their older siblings will dissipate as they watch their own child #3 eat dirty Cheerios off the floor

and they will realize their Momma could have done worse…

At least there was some photo proof!

The "finished" cars. :)

The “finished” cars. 🙂

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Ozzie

Ozzie

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Tyler and Molly

Tyler and Molly

Rusty and Ozzie

Rusty and Ozzie

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and we end with snacks...

and we end with snacks…

Love is a Battlefield

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As a Momma I have discovered that there are elements of parenting that can be likened to war.

There are daily challenges to be met, obstacles to overcome, and bullets to dodge.

As parents we are driven to make sure our entire unit, our family, makes it through the daily battles in one piece.

There are seasons of life that are more challenging than others as we work to make sure “No man gets left behind.”

This requires us to make hard decisions daily as we work to make sure everyone is being protected and directed toward the safety found on the other side of the combat zone.

To be blunt:

Parenting requires a certain degree of battlefield triage.

Triage (/ˈtrɑːʒ/ or /triːˈɑːʒ/) is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately.

Like a medic working his way through a sea of fallen soldiers, we as parents are constantly scanning and assessing. We know that the reality of parenting is that all needs, of all family members, can’t be met at all times.

That is simply the truth of it.

So like a seasoned doctor we look for the most severe symptoms, the most dire situations and put our energy and resources into treating the most life threatening cases. The gushing head wound takes priority over the sprained ankle. That is not to say you don’t care about the sprain, or that you don’t worry about the sprain…You just can’t focus on the sprain today.

As we have opened our home to our two adoption treasures I have found myself focused on the dire case that lays before me. There are two fallen fighters that lay before me with so many gushing wounds in need of cauterization that my parenting focus has been heavily focused on those two little boys.

I continue to lift my head, scan, assess and rush over to the others when I see hurts that need bandaged, but the majority of my time and resources have been rationed out to the most pressing needs- Ozzie and Tyler.

I thought I had effectively triaged the day when I discovered I had blindly missed one child’s injury. At 9:00 at night this sweet girl approached me and revealed a gushing flesh wound…

It was Miss Molly.

Molly is my tender heart. She is a caretaker by nature and has been blessed with a servant’s heart. She is always looking to lift, encourage, and bless others. She lives to lighten another’s load and fears burdening or hurting others. She is my worker. She never has to be asked…she simply does. She sees a need and meets that need. She never asks for accolades in return. She can be selfless to the point of her own personal detriment… as I discovered last evening.

I took one look at her and saw the struggle in her eyes. She needed to talk but hated to burden. Her heart was hurting but she didn’t want to add one more worry to my plate. It was nothing big, just a pile of small hurts and worries that had grown into a big hurt. Molly stood before me, with her heart hurting, and told me that she didn’t want to say anything because she knew I had already had a hard day.

My heart broke.

And the guilt came crashing over me.

*Sigh*

I thought everyone’s condition was stable. I hadn’t even noticed the pool of blood.

We all have those children who we spend more time mending than others. (Sometimes because of injuries inflicted upon them, and sometimes because of self-inflicted wounds.) I have a few “soldiers” that I find myself treating and retreating because they continue to tear open the same wound that I keep restitching. Then there are those children who hold a tissue to a pulsing aortic cut because they don’t want to be a burden. All while we, as Heavenly Father’s medics, try to keep everyone alive and fighting, in this battle we call mortal life.

It is hard. It is mentally draining. It is a guilt-ridden, often discouraging mission. There are so many needs and so little we feel we have to give. This is when we must turn to the Master Doctor, the one who gives life, the one who heals hurts…The Ultimate Physician…and ask for help.

Ask Him to help us see the hidden wounds and the internal bleeding.

Ask Him to help us be patient with the ones who continue to tear off their bandages.

Ask him to perform a miracle, like the loaves and fishes, and multiply our offering…

to take our minutes and multiply their effect,

to take our patience and double it with His own,

to take our scant talents and limited resources and turn them into enough.

Our place as parents is on the battlefield

and part of war is triage,

but we are promised that if we listen to the guidance of the Head Physician,

we can lift the fallen and be sure that no man is left behind.

It is a bit SLIPPERY out there!

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On Saturday the big kids had the opportunity to join up with other teens  in the area from our church

for a fun night on the ice.

They were each able to invite a friend and Toby drove them an hour south to where the activity was taking place. At the activity there were games to play, walking tacos to eat, and plenty of fun on the ice.

Here is a look at their ICY night…

A "speed friendship" get to know you game.

A “speed friendship” get to know you game.

North Park Ice Rink

North Park Ice Rink

Lucus and Rusty

Lucus and Rusty

Oliva and Grace

Oliva and Grace

Fun on the Ice

Fun on the Ice!

Rusty

Rusty

Being silly!

Being silly!

A fun night with great friends!

A fun night with great friends!

It was a wonderful night for the youth! A big thanks to all who worked to make this night a success!!

My kids had a blast. 🙂